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The 1939 New York World's Fair

Paul M. Van Dort

About This Site

Paul M. Van Dort and Trivia

Welcome


My name is Paul M. Van Dort. Beside me is Trivia, a wolf-hybrid, and constant office companion, she is named after the Roman deity who stood guard over three crossroads.

This site is dedicated to the 1939 New York World's Fair. It is a personal effort to keep the Fair alive for everyone to enjoy, and be a source of reference material for anyone interested in the '39 NY World's Fair.

The photographs on this site come from many different sources: my personal photos, photographs from other private collectors, and from web sites such as the New York Public Library and Library of Congress. I have made every attempt to give credit to the people, web sites and all sources of photographs and material from external sources.

Photographs for sale can be found in the Photo Gallery. Only photos from my private collection, those submitted by Dr. William R. Hansen, and the World's Fair Historical Society are for sale. Money generated from the sale of these photos and from my book: the 1939 New York World's Fair Photo Collection help support this site.

Why the 1939 New York World's Fair?


Childhood Memories

Shell gas symbol

It was 1951, World War II had been over for six years, Shell gasoline was 23 cents per gallon, cigarettes were 25 cents a pack, minimum wage was 90 cents an hour. The 1939-1940 New York World's Fair had been over for a little more than a decade, the next one in New York (although unsanctioned), was twelve years in the future, and I was part of the Baby Boomer generation.

My bedroom was in the finished attic of our northern New Jersey Cape Cod house. If you are familiar with this style of home, you know the attic stairs usually go up near the center of the house. My room had three built-in bookcases filled with books by authors like Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, and others. Most of these were read once and retired to the attic to be dealt with sometime in the future.

The bookcase located over the stairs was about three feet deep. Behind the shadow of the books was where memories were stored; a collection of war medals, theater playbills, the family photo albums, old books like Scott's Lady of the Lake, and a leather-bound edition of A Christmas Carol, but best of all were two albums of photos of the 1939 World's Fair. That was my room for 12 years, until I turned 17, graduated from high school, and moved out. During those years, from time to time, I would dig out the World's Fair photo albums and spend hours looking at them. After leaving home, I forgot about the Fair pictures for more than 35 years.

The Photos Travel About


The albums and some of the books moved with my parents, first to Florida in 1976 and then to Nevada in 1990. Mom passed away in 1993 and Dad moved into a smaller apartment. The books and albums, all neatly boxed, were moved into my garage for storage. After the death of my father in the Spring of 2000, I had to go through all the boxes and decide what to do with the contents. In doing so, I came across the two albums of the 1939 New York World's Fair. Once again, after 30 some years, I spent hours visiting an era almost a decade before I was born.

Preserving the Photo Collection


The archival properties of black and white photos are around 75 years if the photos were processed properly. These were. After 60 years, except for some yellowing of the paper, these pictures were almost as good as the day they were first viewed. But what about the future, how much longer would they last? I decided to preserve the photos digitally. After scanning 400 photos, I sorted and indexed them. The two albums contained many of the same photos. The result was 271 different photographs. I wondered if others might enjoy seeing these photos. I thought they would.

In 2001, I sold a CD containing the 271 photos in various file formats and included several indices. The response from the purchasers was very positive, but most wanted more information about each of the photos and about the Fair itself. Almost a year later, I decided to start over. I re-scanned the original photos at a higher resolution, spent almost a year doing research, and with a lot of help from others, I produced a Limited Edition Coffee-table book (1,000 copies) and a much more informative and enjoyable CD. (CDs are sold out, but I will make them upon request.)

The Web Site


In 2002 I also started a website for the Fair as part of my site, www.pmphoto.to. It wasn't very big, less than 300 photos, so using part of what was my business site seemed to be the thing to do.

By 2007 interest and the website was growing rapidly and I thought it should have a Domain Name and site of its own. Thus I registered the name 1939NYWorldsFair.com and it became an entity unto itself.

As of January 2013, thanks to the help from so many people, the site is now made up of more than 1,000 pages containing approximately 3,700 photos and graphics.

Using "Social Networking" like Facebook, Twitter, and a Blog, the World's Fair is gaining in popularity and hopefully will continue to do so, even after I am gone.